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“How long will it take for the toxicology report to get out? Can you possibly expedite it?”
Tola looked at the annoying lawyer breathing down her neck and turned her face away as though he had not spoken. The autopsy and toxicology reports she had been working on the last two days were really important and she was being extremely careful with them. This man was being impatient because he was trying to build a case but that was none of her business.
She regarded the results from the tissue sample obtained from the victim’s kidney and proceeded to make some notes.
“I asked you a question lady.”
Tola did not look up.
“You’re obstructing my work. If you can’t stay here in silence, please leave.”
The lawyer made a face like he was about to snap back but kept quiet.
When Tola was done, she called in a lab assistant.
“Do we still have sodium fluoride?”
The assistant nodded.
“Okay. Get me some. I want to test more blood samples. Just to be sure.”
The assistant walked out of the lab and Tola followed him, peeling off her latex gloves. She walked into her office with the lawyer trailing after her.
“Look here, mister…”
“Benson. Barrister Benson.”
“Mr. Benson. You’re only in my office because of some connection to people that matter in this state. A connection I really do not care about. But if you keep stepping on my toes, or getting in the way of my work, I will have you physically thrown out and banned from my workplace. And I promise you, not one of the million phone calls you make will make a difference.”
Barrister Benson gulped. Tola was practically spitting fire from her eyes.
“Are we clear?”
He nodded meekly.
Right now, the results we have are clean. No unusual trace of alcohol or drugs but I’ll have to run a couple more tests to be absolutely certain. You’ll have your results in a week or two. And no, there can be no expediting the process.”
“Alright then. Can you have the results sent to my office as soon as they are ready?”
Tola smiled smugly. She could tell she had hurt his pride. She wanted to go in for the kill and ask him to come down himself in a couple of weeks but decided instead to be gracious.
“Sure. I’ll have my lab assistant bring it to you.”
Barrister Benson stood up and walked out. The weather was really hot and a few minutes after leaving the fully air-conditioned office, he was sweating profusely.
A cell phone began to ring in his pocket and his sweating became even more intense. He pulled the phone out and answered without checking the screen. There was no need to. It could only be one person.
“What’s the update?” the voice on the other end of the line was cold.
“Nothing so far sir. The toxicology reports appear clean so it looks like intoxication is out of it. But I’m still waiting for final results.”
“Mr. Benson, when I gave you this case, what were my exact words to you?”
The lawyer wiped sweat beads off his face nervously.
“You said to bury Chief Ubong and his business sir.”
“And do I need to tell you how to go about your job?”
“No sir. Not at all.”
“I’m tired of doing you favours. I’ll do one last one and you better handle it from here on out otherwise, your family will be attending your funeral before the month runs out.”
Benson heard a click and he sighed.
How did a regular, happy-go-lucky fellow as himself get mixed in this level of drama and intrigue?
A few days after the recent plane crash, he received an anonymous package at his office with details of the crash. There were pictures, email exchanges and reports. The package was rather bulky and there was also a cellphone. The moment he turned the phone on, it rang. He refrained from picking it at first, caught somewhere between amusement at the thought that someone could be playing a prank and fear that this was actually happening. But he went ahead and picked the call and his life had been a nightmare from that moment.
This person knew things about him. Things his wife of 10 years knew nothing about, things that could have him thrown behind bars for life. And he liked his freedom. So he was caught between a rock and a hard place and all he could do was research the case and make the best presentation he had ever done in his life.
Whoever the caller was, they had influence and they had money. In a matter of days, a substantial number of families had been convinced to join the class action and Benson found himself caught up in meetings, hospital visits and mysterious phone calls with the strange man who connected him to other strange people. The whole episode was beginning to wear him out. He had eye bags from going days without sleep and he knew it was only a matter of time before he crashed. He needed a break but didn’t have the luxury of time to take one.
His regular cellphone rang startling him for a second. Only when he saw the caller was his wife did he relax.
“Hey papa. You picked the kids from school yet?”
Benson looked at the time on his watch. It was past 4.
“Papa, what was that?”
“I’m sorry love, I got caught up in a meeting.”
“You mean you left my kids out there by themselves?” His wife thundered.
“I’m on my way there now mama. Calm down.” He hung up the phone immediately, knowing she would still be yelling at him but really not caring. Then he rushed to his car which was parked at a curb a few hundred meters away, got into it, kicked the engine to life and sped away.
Uzo and Nathan sat in Uzo’s living room watching football.
“No way nau! That was a foul! This ref no dey see?” Nathan grumbled rather loudly.
Uzo laughed and took a sip of his beer.
“We don win the match finish. Even if dem give penalty now, e no go do anything.”
Nathan hissed and maintained his focus on the television. Five minutes later, the final whistle went off and Uzo stood up and did a mini victory dance around the room with Nathan frowning and trying to ignore him.
“Eyah, sorry bruv. E dey happen. Don’t let it pain you too much.”
“Abeg comot for here make person see road jor.”
Uzo laughed again and reclaimed his seat on the couch.
He observed Nathan keenly, considering what topic to broach to ease the disappointment of the loss his team had just suffered, knowing that Nathan’s disposition would remain sour if they could not find something else to talk about.
“How’s that una office these days sef?”
Nathan looked at him and snorted.
“How many days ago did you leave there that it has now turned to our office?”
“Does it matter? It’s sha not my office anymore.”
“Mehh. It’s just there. I’m even considering leaving too abeg. It’s just really somehow without you around. Mr. Taiwo seems to blame me for you leaving. Like I would encourage anyone to stay in that hell hole.”
“Guy, find something fast so you can leave too. That company is dying if you ask me.”
Yeah. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Tell me about your new place. You said there were some hot girls there.”
“Yoooooo! I kid you not! I walked in there and first thought that came to mind was, I must have died and gone to heaven.”
Nathan doubled over as he let out loud guffaws. Uzo chuckled as well.
“Come, when did you start chasing woman? I don’t even understand you again.”
“Blame Leela. That babe has just made me unleash my demon mode. You’ll spend so much time and effort loving one person but they’ll keep pulling a Houdini on you. I no do again abeg. Me too I want to enjoy life. Flirt, groove and maybe break one or two hearts.”
Nathan laughed some more and shook his head.
“You? Naah. You don’t have the capacity to chase women or even be mean to them.”
“That’s what you think. Just watch me. I’m done with Leela and her wahala. Let me live a little too.”
“Story. Leela will still come back and screw you over some more. That babe has your mumu button on lock down. I don’t even understand. Was it the sex?”
Uzo shook his head and stood up.
“No. We only had sex twice. Once after the kidnap wahala and then after she got back this last time. It was more about how we connected emotionally the first time we were dating. But even that wasn’t real.
I don’t know abeg guy. I’m sha glad it’s over. She has gone. Let me find something to do with my life.”
“I hear you. So you’re all about that player life now eh?” Nathan asked with a mischievous grin.
“Yes o. Who love don epp abeg?”
Both men laughed and clinked their beer bottles together.
Tola was wrapping up for the day when her cellphone rang. She saw the caller ID and ignored it. Maria was a constant pain in the butt and she was not in the mood to indulge her. Maria was a friend who ran one of the top gossip blogs in Nigeria but Tola was not impressed because more than 90% of the content on her blog was not original. But Maria did not care, she went about her business regardless and the only reason Tola tolerated her was because they had grown up together.
The phone stopped ringing and started off again almost immediately. Tola ignored it still as she gathered her things to leave. On her way out, the phone began ringing a third time and she finally picked it, mild irritation in her voice.
“Madam, if a person doesn’t answer on the first ring, why not send a text? You wan kill my battery?”
“Babes na wa for you o! I thought you were the one doing autopsy and toxicology reports for those pilots that died in the plane crash.” Maria sounded annoyed and her tone made Tola weary.
“Yes, I’m doing the reports and I told you I can’t talk to you about it because it is supposed to be confidential information.”
“Confidential my ass! It’s all over the other blogs now. The pilot had high alcohol levels and you couldn’t even slip that juicy gist to a sister but you told a lawyer instead. If you wanted to leak it discreetly, why not send me an anonymous tip?”
Tola stopped in her tracks and her handbag involuntarily dropped from her right hand.
“What did you say?!”
“I said the pilot had high alcohol levels and you couldn’t leak it to me first. Na wa for you o!”
Tola’s mind began racing.
“I am going to kill that lawyer!”
“What?” Maria queried
“Maria, that leak is untrue. If you have put that on your blog, please take it down. You can quote me directly as saying the leak is untrue. The tests are not yet complete but nothing we have seen so far remotely suggests anything like that. Those rumours are lies! Take them down!”
Tola was furious. She heard two beeps and she took the phone off her ear. Another call was coming in.
“Babes, I’ll call you back abeg. One of the investigators is calling me.”
“Are you sure I can quote you? The leak is not true?”
“Yes!” Tola snapped impatiently. “I’ll call you back!”
She ended Maria’s call and quickly answered the other call.
“Tola, what is this I’m reading in the tabloids? I thought you were to report your findings directly to the board? Why leak them to the public?”
“I’m so sorry sir but that wasn’t me. Those reports aren’t even true. It’s like I told you earlier. There was nothing found in the kidney samples we tested. I’m doing further blood tests to ensure we cover all our bases but so far, both men appear to have been clean.”
The man on the other end of the line sighed.
“Just be careful. I don’t like it when sensitive matters like this are handled carelessly. Who have you discussed this with?”
“Just the lawyer I told you about. But I didn’t even give out anything.”
“It’s alright. I’ll be in touch.”
Tola waited for the man to hang up before dialing the lawyer’s number. He picked on the second ring.
“Hello Miss. Tola, do you have anything for me?”
“Look, if I lose my license because of you, the thunder that will fire you will be of proportions exceeding your tiny imagination! How dare you?!!”
“Excuse me?! What do you-“
Tola did not even let him finish.
“How dare you leak information that is without substance to the tabloids?! Aren’t you a lawyer?? Shouldn’t you know better?”
“Calm down woman!” Benson snapped back. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play dumb with me! The only person I have spoken to on this case so far, apart from the investigators is you. Gossip blogs are reporting that a lawyer has leaked that one of the pilots had really high levels of alcohol in his blood and you and I know that is not true!”
Benson groaned. Each time his mysterious caller offered a “favour” it always backfired and reflected poorly on his credibility as a lawyer. This leak had to be the favour the man had said he would do.
“I swear to you, it was not me.” Benson was saying but Tola was having none of it.
“If it wasn’t you then it must have been one of your colleagues. Mr. Benson, fix this mess right now or else you will not be able to practice law in this town again.”
She hung up and let out a frustrated growl. Thunder would fire that lawyer. This was him trying to force her hand after her unwillingness to share any major information with him.
Chief Ubong was typing on his laptop when his door burst open and an angry looking man dressed in the uniform of the Nigerian Army barged in. The man had two other officers by his side and he noticed a third person restraining Fola in the background.
“What is the meaning of this nonsense?” Chief Ubong barked as he got out of his chair
“No, you sit there! You are a dead man! Your family is dead! Your business is dead! Everything you hold dear is dead!” Maj. Gen. Yakubu spat.
“Your son’s carelessness killed my only daughter. You think you know pain now? I will show you the real meaning of pain!”
Chief Ubong stood up regardless and walked to stand squarely with the Major General.
“How dare you?!! I lost 3 of my children in that crash! Who do you think you are to come in here and spew rubbish?”
“I have just come here to put you on notice. My daughter’s death will not go like that.”
“Get out of my office right now! Get out!”
Chief Ubong was fuming and his chest began to hurt. Maj. Gen. Yakubu stormed out of the office in the same manner he had come in with his aides in tow.
Fola rushed into Chief Ubong’s office as the older man clutched his chest.
“Are you okay sir?”
He held him gingerly and guided him to his seat then rummaged through his drawers till he found some medication which he shoved into his mouth while he ran to the dispenser situated close to the door to get some water. Chief Ubong downed the glass and tried to steady his breathing.
“Thank you Fola.”
“You’re welcome sir. Sorry sir.”
“Who was that?”
“Major General Yakubu. He’s the National Security Adviser.”
Chief Ubong exhaled loudly. Why on earth would Ijeoma not come to his rescue? If the National Security Adviser was threatening him, who could he turn to?
A shadow suddenly fell over the entrance of his office. Chief Ubong looked up and like something conjured out of his imagination, Ijeoma stood there, a blank expression on her face.
by Ogechi Nwobia
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